The Future of Socialism

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Tue Nov 16 11:14:47 MST 1999

Sorry for the delay in responding to Comrade Whitlock's comments. I found what C.
Whitlock calls the fundamental difference in outlook between the two articles
interesting as representing , perhaps, types within Marxism. I don't know. Here I list
some questions that come to my mind regarding Smith's article, though I don't have an
attitude of championing Cronin over Smith, more like still musing over both articles
and Al Whitlock's posts.

 When Smith says:

 "Trying to make such a re-examination, we
must turn to an unknown writer of the nineteenth century: Karl Heinrich
Marx.1 Discovering his ideas is not as easy as you might expect. For the
millions of words devoted to 'Marxism' during the past century and more,
rather than helping us to understand Marx's ideas, in fact form a massive
barrier which must be penetrated if we are to find out what he was trying to
First, let us say what he was not trying to do. He was not an economist,
making theoretical 'models' of capitalism'. He was not a philosopher, with a
unified 'theory of history'. He was not a sociologist, developing a science
of social structure. He certainly did not manufacture 'an integral world
outlook', 'cast from a single sheet of steel'. And, as we all know, neither
was he the author of a Utopian blueprint for an alternative kind of world. "
etc. , etc.


Charles: I find this a bit, what is it ? unbelievable, too much of a mystification of
Marx.  Marxists who have followed Marx all of these years have not missed or
misunderstood so much what Marx "really" meant or thought. And I find it hard to
believe that somehow Smith and others have just recently rediscovered the real Marx,
etc. etc. Engels understood Marx. Lenin understood Marx. Trotsky understood Marx.
Millions of workers and peasants had a significant understanding of Marx, even though
their heroic struggles to realize the doctrine in action have been covered with warts
and even, at this point, have come to a historic failure in making worldwide Marxist

Then when Smith says:
"Marx did not study an economic system called 'capitalism', and its
replacement by a different one called 'socialism'. His subject was capital,
which stands over us all as a vast, inhuman social power. This set of social
relations determines the way that humans treat each other, and themselves,
not as free ends in themselves, but as mere means, as things. Conversely,
things-for example, money -take on the character of subjects, dominating
individual human lives. The life-activities of individuals, their human
creative potentials, are subsumed under these inhuman powers, and are turned   "

etc., etc. in this ultra humanist vein. it sounds like Smith thinks that Marx was not
one of the authors of _The Manifesto of the Communist Party_ or that Marx did not see
socialism as a transitional step to full communism in which there remained elements of

Finally, the whole argument by Smith , which basically sees no form of true Marxism as
ever realized whatsoever in the world since Marx, tends to undermine the validity of
Marxism by its own standards of the test of practice, as especially articulated in the
Theses on Feuerbach.  If no body of workers has ever been able to even come close to
making a Marxist revolution, then it becomes too theoretical , scholastic and
otherworldly to be taken seriously.

I respect the dimensions of Marx's doctrine that Smith focuses on, but I think Marx
linked these very advanced communist-humanist ideas in unithy and sequence with a
sense of  the much more get-your-hands-dirty, trial and error, real world practical
struggles as necessary preconditions for full communism in humanity's future.


>>> "Al Whitlock" <al_whitlock at> 11/13/99 06:33PM >>>
In posting Smith's article "The Prospects for Socialism" in response to C.
Brown's posting of Cronin's "the Future of Socialism" I was struck by a
fundamental difference in outlook.

Cronin manifests a confidence that all that has to be done to realise
socialism is to take over the supposed advances in knowledge and technology
that capitalism generated in its rise to acme; "The Marxist vision of a
communist future was, then, not about the abolition of all that capitalism
was building, but about socialising the possibilities manifest in the first
great wave of globalisation 150 years ago."

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